Farewell Korea

27 Feb

By Catherine

I am sitting in a hotel in Insadong, Seoul – the same hotel we sat in 1 year and 1 month ago when we first arrived in Korea. We deliberately came back to “old man in the alley way” as we thought it fitting to end as we began. This will be my last post written in Korea.  The old man still works here and I remember the soapy smell of the corridors.

I remember the bitter cold and the unattractive underwear we bought to keep us warm. I remember the smells of foreign food and the sweet sugary cakes sold on the side of the streets. I also remember the pungent odour of bugs cooking besides sweetcorns.

I remember the change of season and the radiant pink azalaes that grew along the river and outside my school. I remember the crisp mornings that we tried to run along the river and the smell of car fumes as we came up the stairs to join the road. I remember wading through the river and the pebbles digging into my softened feet.

I remember the first time we had Korean grilled meat and the relief I experienced knowing my school would feed me every day – even if I only ate kimchi and rice sometimes. I remember my delight when the menu was chicken salad, spaghetti Bolognese, spicy tofu or hamburg steaks. I remember catching fish in the Bonghwa river during the fish festival and then eating juicy watermelons back in Yeongju, with the cherry-red sauce dripping down my chin. I remember taking evening cycles through narrow quiet streets and discovering music concerts where we sat and listened. I remember sitting outside HomePlus eating ice creams and bumping into other foreigners doing their shopping. I remember throwing the frisbee on the river bank on sunny afternoons or playing basketball. I remember watching Baden and the boys play soccer in the dark.

I remember train rides to the next city, just to watch a movie and stuff ourselves with popcorn and coke. I remember gazing out the window as heavy rains fell and watching Baden walk home under his red umbrella. I remember climbing onto bus 1 and my surprise when I saw Baden sitting at the back, with an open seat beside him. I remember late evening trains back to our town after a weekend of exploring, and the song “Speaking words of wisdom” signalling that the journey was over.

I’ll never forget late long lunches at Hans Deli or coffee breaks at coffee shops. I’ll also remember trawling through second-hand shops in search of bargains. I’ll remember the summer heat and how we stripped off most of our clothes as soon as we got home and basking in the breeze of the aircon. And I’ll definitely remember the time I had a full conversation (in Korean) with a taxi driver 3 weeks before I left.

I’ve watched too many episodes of CSI and, even more of Grey’s Anatomy. I’ve moaned that it’s not what I expected and that I’m not growing. But really it’s been an amazing experience. As a person, I’m wider and fuller and deeper than I ever was before. And that is everything.


4 Responses to “Farewell Korea”

  1. Val February 27, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

    Cath, such a beautifully written piece. I’m surei could smell and taste your memories! Wishing you much love, light and fulfillment in the next part of your adventure. I look forward to reading about it.

  2. Calvin February 27, 2013 at 12:46 pm #

    Enjoyed your last post from Korea. It appears it was a success. Happy trails my friend.

  3. Tanya Hanekom February 27, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

    The most beautiful blog ever. With love from your biggest fan.

  4. Ann Dowie February 27, 2013 at 2:24 pm #

    So beautiful Cath. Having been able to experience a little of Korea, I understand so much more of what you have written about. Thank you guys for suggesting that we come and see where you have lived for the past year, it was so precious to have been a part of that.

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